When entrepreneurs with small businesses are already crushed under heavy daily workloads of producing great content, it helps to know which type of content will work the hardest for you and to focus on that.
One of the smartest ways to judge the content you need to produce is to see what will nurture your customer through the process of his or her buying journey (also known as the purchase funnel).
In the diagram below, you will notice the three typical stages of the purchase funnel that you need to worry about. The Top of the Funnel (TOFU), the Middle of the Funnel (MOFU) and the Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU).
Top of the Funnel
The Top of the Funnel (TOFU) is where you get your potential customers to know that your product, brand, or business exists. Therefore, this is an area requiring breadth of content. You have to spread content far and wide and see that you are gradually recognized as a “visible expert” in your field of expertise.
The frequency and quantity of content you put out on your own site, the frequency and quantity of content you put out on other sites catering to the same audiences, plus all the social promotion you do for all of your posts will all contribute to making your name pop up frequently and ubiquitously.
The kinds of articles and content you need to put out at the TOFU stage are those that demonstrate your “brand authority.” You have to sound and feel like a person noted, read, and valued as a source of sound knowledge on your domain expertise.
Two types of content are invaluable to increasing your brand authority and awareness and establishing your “value proposition.” These are:
- The spate of high-value articles you write on your own blog (that are search engine optimized) are important here.
- The spate of high-value articles you write on other high-traffic blogs (guest posts) are important here.
The concept to keep in mind here is “ubiquity” of content. What is “ubiquity? It is defined by the dictionary as “the state or capacity of being everywhere, especially at the same time.” The way to ensure that your brand has that ubiquity in consumers’ eyes requires two things: one, your brand has to be “ever-fresh for Google” and two, your brand has to be “ever-visible” to its niche target audiences by being in state of continuous production and distribution of fresh content.
After 35 years of experience in the brand-building business, I can safely advise that if there was just one thing you can do for brand growth acceleration, it is unrelenting brand visibility proliferation, and brand-freshness re-creation, day in and day out. By freshening the brand and its communication, and by putting it out to more and more places where your niche audiences hang out, the brand cannot but grow.
The beauty is that with the social and online media further expanding your outreach, and with Google actively encouraging and rewarding freshness of content, giving your brand the traction and momentum it needs is just about consistency in high-value content creation and content proliferation.
Middle of the Funnel
The Middle of the Funnel, conversely, is a place where intensity of relationship with your potential customers has to be built.
By the time your potential customers reach the Middle of the Purchase Funnel (MOFU), they probably know you reasonably well and are somewhat ready to take the next step like subscribing to your mailing list to stay in contact with you. This is the stage when “traffic” is not your #1 issue as much as before, but “conversion” becomes the focal concern. Two pieces of content are crucial to this stage:
- Your newsletters can be crucial to this phase of customer hand-holding.
- A spate of “how to” articles that help customers get answers to their pain points are important here.
Just as “ubiquity” was the buzzword that encapsulated the objective of your content in the TOFU stage, in the MOFU stage, the concept to be very focused on is “customer nurturing.”
You literally have to give every potential customer a feeling of being in a one-to-one relationship with them, and yet, you also know that you may have hundreds or even thousands of customers who have to be made to feel that way. You have to give off cues that you understand their needs and problems and have answers to their many doubts, concerns, or questions.
Experts call this stage one of “mass-customization,” where masses of people have to feel they are receiving customized responses from your brand.
Obviously, this is a tall task for any brand to do, and that is why it’s become imperative to see how much automation you can introduce into the process. Your newsletters and customer emailing system can be set into autoresponder campaigns that run on autopilot.
As for your articles and posts on your blog for this stage, it’s all about watching customers “digital body language” when they visit your site, and then targeting them with focused information that can enhance their chances of getting converted to the next steps of their buying cycle. This is usually done with some amount of “marketing automation.”
One of the best ways to see how beautifully marketing automation works is to see how Amazon works. Have you noticed how Amazon nurtures their leads so systematically and in such a targeted and focused way that before you know it, you are led as a customer from one step to the next until you buy … and then buy more … and then buy even more?
See what happens when you browse. Depending on what you browsed for, and then didn’t buy, you get emails from Amazon saying there are more items like the ones you were last seen browsing. Then you add to your wish list — and there are more emails saying they have more similar things you can add to the wish list. You buy a book and then you get emails saying there are more similar books you may want based on your last ten orders.
Don’t you get the feeling that someone at Amazon is watching your every move and then immediately making you offer after offer after noticing every little nuance of action you took on the Amazon site during your last twenty visits?
Bottom of the Funnel
The Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU) is the place where a customer reaches close to the buying point and needs an extra boost to be able to settle with a sense of finality.
Here the two kinds of content that will work are:
- Articles that allow choice-reinforcement such as arguments that help erase specific lingering objections or articles that compare and contrast your brand versus competition are important here.
- Articles that allow choice-validation from other customers such as case studies, testimonials, or return on investment proof are important here.
This is a stage when as a brand marketer, and especially a small business, you have to be extremely careful. The two things you absolutely should not do is try to force the pace of decision-making of the customer, because any attempt to try and hasten things will backfire. You also should not be too early or too late in making any offers, discounts, or deals to close the sale.
The timing of such things is paramount. Let the customer dictate the pace, don’t try to be proactive, but be ready to respond with alacrity when asked.
You should ideally adopt a two-paced strategy … main distance, reserve, and a silent vigilance over the customer, and then at the final stages of a customer journey, be ready for extremely rapid response so as to prevent the customer from backtracking on any decisions he has taken to come so far.
The closest analogy to this strategy is fishing. When you go out fishing, all you can do for hours on end is to hold the fishing rod and wait with inordinate patience for some flutter of action on the rod that tells you there’s something happening at the bait-end. And then, when you’re sure that something is really biting the bait, you have to reel it in so fast that it has no time to slither back into the water nor even lose its bite on the bait.
It has to be such rapid action that your hours of waiting pay off. If you fail to be extremely alert at the very end, the whole long arduous dance will have to begin all over again!
About the Author
Shobha Ponnappa is a digital marketing strategist/consultant with a forte in fast-tracking digital brand breakthroughs, cultivated over the last 35 years. Working with over 125 entrepreneurial brands on the extreme cutting edge of digital technology, she has developed a breakthrough “imagineering” style all her own. She owns the Digital Entrepreneurs Network (DEN)™ through which she offers consulting services and has written several ebooks for “overburdened entrepreneurs.”